“Soul” Teaser Trailer Review!

Disney & Pixar’s Soul promises a whole bunch of mind-boggling metaphysics in its first, minute-long teaser trailer: and surprisingly few “ugly-cry” moments from a studio that will keep Kleenex in business for years to come. But if anyone’s gonna make us sob in this movie, it’s going to be star Jamie Foxx, who is already doing an excellent job in his Pixar debut as the studio’s first black leading man.

His trailer monologue sounds like excerpts from some rousing speech that his character, middle school teacher Joe Gardner probably gives in the third act: he talks passionately and brilliantly about how life is too short to waste being anything other than what you want to be – what you were born to be. For Joe, that’s a career as a great jazz musician, a goal he works hard to achieve – before tripping into an open manhole in the street and…um, turning into a tiny glowing green vaguely-amoeba shaped thing? Did he die? Is he unconscious? Knowing Pixar, they killed him.

Either way, his little green soul is clearly very much alive – or, at least, undead. He finds himself in what appears to be the vast expanse of the cosmos, watching in exasperation as Tina Fey’s little glowing green undead soul tells him that she wants to be remembered for her funny cowboy-dance. I’m not entirely sure what Joe is supposed to learn in the soul region, as he already appears to have his life pretty much in order and he clearly understands what he wants to be and how he wants to get there – but Pixar is usually pretty good with thematic material, so I trust them to put together a compelling story.

So what do you think? How would you rate the trailer, and how many tears do you think you’ll shed, watching little green lightbulbs wax poetic about philosophy? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Trailer Rating: 9/10

Andy Serkis, Colin Farrell Join “The Batman”.

Okay, we’re doing this again, aren’t we?

Not too long ago, I spoke about how bizarre it was that an actor like Jonah Hill could be circling the role of The Riddler in Matt Reeves’ upcoming DCEU origin story, The Batman, which will follow a young Dark Knight as he navigates a Gotham City seething with villainy and corruption. Hill, who was far more suited to the role of The Penguin, eventually walked away from the project entirely, both due to that and the fact that he was asking for significantly more money than Warner Brothers was willing to pay for him to play a character they didn’t even want him to play.

independent.co.uk

And now we’re kind of in the same situation: just now, news broke that Andy Serkis, famed motion-capture performer and director of Sony’s Venom 2, will be joining the cast of The Batman (despite, you know, directing Sony’s Venom 2 at the same time) as Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth. Fans had long hoped that Serkis would exploit his friendship with director Matt Reeves (the two worked together on the recent Planet Of The Apes movies) in order to win a role in the DC film, so this isn’t disappointing news by any means. Andy Serkis is always a win. But it is kind of surprising, in light of the other casting announcement that came out mere minutes later.

Colin Farrell, the handsome Irish actor known for his work in films such as Saving Mr. Banks and Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them, has landed the role of Oswald Cobblepot, better known as The Penguin in DC lore. To be clear, I’m not complaining about this casting choice, but if I had to choose someone to play the stout, eccentric Gentleman of Crime, it would not be Colin Farrell: in fact, if I had to choose an actor to fit that role perfectly, it would be somebody a bit older, with a crazy glint in their eye, somebody who could rival the incredible performance of Danny DeVito in the same role in Batman Returns – actually, it would probably be Andy Serkis. Whereas the taller, fine-featured, soft-spoken Farrell would be a perfect fit for the role of Alfred Pennyworth.

But as we’re beginning to expect with this movie, it’s the other way around.

Farrell’s casting, in particular, is noteworthy because (a) he’s another ridiculously good-looking addition to this already bizarrely beautiful cast, and (b) see above. The Penguin has never been portrayed as a handsome man, and, in fact, much of his origin story revolves around him being the exact opposite: bullied relentlessly for his obesity and shuffling gait, the young Oswald Cobblepot turned to his pet birds for friendship as a child, and became an avid student of ornithology, eventually adopting bird-themes into his villainous style. Reeves is obviously going in the opposite direction with this out-of-the-box casting – and, while I find it intriguing, I can’t say I abhor the idea of Colin Farrell donning Penguin’s signature top hat, monocle and umbrella while wreaking havoc on the streets of Gotham. It just makes me wonder whether Matt Reeves will reveal Gotham to be a stylish, trendy modern city more in line with today’s New York City. Maybe it’s time we moved past Gotham’s traditional representation as a depressingly gritty underworld of criminal activity, seething with corruption and pollution. Margot Robbie’s Birds Of Prey movie almost seems to be leaning in that direction already with its bright neon color palette and fresh, alluring style, but it’s too early to tell yet if she got to that idea first, before Reeves.

Farrell and Serkis will join Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz and Jeffrey Wright in The Batman, which is slated to release in 2021.

So what do you think of the idea of Andy Serkis as Alfred and Colin Farrell as The Penguin? Should the actors have been swapped? How would you feel about a new take on Gotham? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“Fantastic Beasts 3” Has Been Greenlit!

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald was not a good movie. In fact, it can be argued that it was a downright bad one – certainly critics and audiences were almost unanimous in their condemnation of the film’s many convoluted subplots, crowded cast of characters, and disrespect toward Wizarding World canon. Nonetheless, many of us hoped and prayed that, despite fan backlash, despite that ugly Rotten score, despite (worst of all) the lower box-office returns, the franchise could reach its full potential in a third installment, a third film that could right Grindelwald‘s wrongs and put the series back on track. We, the faithful few, suffered devastating setback after devastating setback: the film was pushed back to a 2021 release date; star Ezra Miller’s busy schedule seemed to indicate that he might be leaving the Beasts franchise, or worse, that it might be canceled – these were the concerns that kept us awake at night. We heard rumors that Johnny Depp was out as Grindelwald; that Warner Brothers had lost faith in writer J.K. Rowling’s ability to turn out a good film; that nothing was certain.

Today, one year after Crimes Of Grindelwald put the franchise’s future into question – a third film has been confirmed.

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Beasts is not dead, despite how long it took to get the series off of life-support. In Fantastic Beasts 3, the franchise will need to work harder than ever before to convince fans to stick around – but Rowling can’t rely on the same tactics she thought would make Grindelwald an instant hit: her literary style, the complexity of her stories, her excessive callbacks to Harry Potter – that all needs to stop now, for the third film to work. No more subplots within subplots within subplots, all stuffed into one gigantic red-herring; no more half-baked characters tossed into the story to fill up space and time; no more queer-baiting Grindelwald and Dumbledore’s LGBTQ relationship. It’s time to put the focus back where it belongs, on the core narrative of our four heroes (Newt Scamander, Jacob Kowalski, Tina and Queenie Goldstein), and strip away the layers upon layers of underdeveloped plot that turned Grindelwald into the tangled mess that it was. Bring us back to basics, Jo, and give us a good, stand-alone story that is comprehensible, accessible, and enjoyable.

Thankfully, she’s not alone. As many of us suspected and hoped would be the case, a real screenwriter has been brought onboard to assist Rowling in translating her impressive vision to the big screen: Steve Kloves, the writer for all of the Harry Potter films (except Order Of The Phoenix). Rowling was originally set the write the third film on her own, but reason has prevailed.

I’m not saying that Rowling is not a good writer – on the contrary, I believe she is quite an excellent one: she has an eye for detail, she weaves clues and hints into her writing in an intriguing way that allows fans to play along, and she has a knack for compelling mystery (so much so that, when not writing wizard books/movies, she writes mystery novels under a pseudonym). But her style is best suited to the literary format, where she has all the time she needs to write those mysteries and weave those intricate stories. In a two-hour film, her plot is virtually bursting at the seams, demanding to be given space to breathe, pleading with the viewer for more time – time that Rowling simply doesn’t have. With a professional screenwriter at her side, she will hopefully be able to edit her story down to a decent size, give it a clear focus, and make it just a bit more cinematic: certainly there’s enough in the third film to make a good movie, it just needs a good script.

Fantastic Beasts 3 is confirmed to be another world-hopping adventure like the first two films, with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, set as one of the main locations – though the Deadline article in which the news broke does make it seem like the story will span several continents: which would fit in with what star Dan Fogler suggested earlier this year, that the third film would be bigger in scale than the first two combined. Oh please, Jo, don’t mess this up. This could be your last chance – don’t mess this up!

The regular cast, including Johnny Depp as Grindelwald and Jude Law as young Albus Dumbledore, are confirmed to be returning for the third film. Jessica Williams, who had a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo in Grindelwald as Professor Eulalie “Lally” Hicks, will also have a pivotal role, though no further details have been revealed about her character. Production will begin in Spring of 2020.

What do you think of the news? Are you relieved, or disappointed that the franchise is continuing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

“The King” Movie Review!

In the eyes of history buffs, The King will probably be a decent, if boringly conventional retelling of a fascinating story from the vaults of Medieval history. For fans of Shakespeare, this interpretation of the bard’s work, watered down in the telling, will probably be a bland disappointment. But in my opinion, the movie, while not particularly fresh or exciting, is worth a watch merely for the performances from Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson, accompanied by Nicholas Britell’s beautiful score. And if you find yourself drifting off in the first half of the movie, with its interminable gray color palette, dreary dialogue and half-hearted brutality – simply fast forward to when Pattinson shows up about an hour in, at which point the movie finally sheds some of its solemn trappings, develops a faint splash of color, and actually gets interesting.

The story itself is classic: the brief, tumultuous reign of King Henry V (Timothée Chalamet) of England, who stormed and nearly conquered France in 1415. But with two versions of the story out there – the historical account, and Shakespeare’s heavily fictionalized version – the film goes for the least interesting option: trying to blend the two into one coherent whole, using historical realism to set the scene, but sticking faux-Shakespearean dialogue into the mouths of its actors, who, to their credit, actually make it sound halfway decent – up to a point. Director David Michôd and writer and star Joel Edgerton haven’t made anywhere near enough additions or alterations to the story, and as a result The King often feels like it’s treading on well-worn ground – or rather, sinking in the muddy field of Agincourt, weighed down by plate armor and brooding plot. To put it simply, the movie isn’t particularly fun, and it doesn’t have much room to breathe. But what it lacks in originality of voice, it makes up for with the casting of two stellar performers.

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Chalamet embodies the young king of England with a stone-cold solemnity that sets the tone for the whole movie – the rest of the movie, however, fails to achieve the same balance of neutrality and watchability as Chalamet does consistently. Rather, the movie itself begins to fall away and fade into fog, while Chalamet’s Henry becomes more clearly defined with each passing minute, until, in its closing scenes, he is the only life it has left. And what life he possesses! Typically seen as a dewy-eyed Hollywood heartthrob, Chalamet is here a gaunt, pale figure with leering eyes that disguise a heart longing for peace in his time – he is at times inspiring (as when he rallies his men for battle on the morn of Agincourt, using dialogue that is nowhere near as impressive as the St. Crispin’s Day speech his character utters in Shakespeare’s play but still sounds good because it’s Timothée Chalamet), or terrifying (as when he confronts his dying father in the latter’s bedchamber, ripping the sheets away from the bed, letting the old man shiver and tremble as the life slips from his body). But he is always a commanding presence onscreen, never rivaled by any of his castmates until Pattinson enters the picture, challenging Chalamet’s calm with a startlingly zany performance that turns The King into one of 2019’s most unexpectedly weird movies.

Pattinson, another actor trying to reshape his image in the public conscious, is a terrifying/hysterically funny revelation in his role as the Dauphin of France. Other reviewers are conflicted about his portrayal of the character, saying he ruins the serious nature of the film, or, alternatively, is its one saving grace. A callous, sadistic idiot, the Dauphin somehow manages to seem like an absolutely credible and formidable force even while being an unabashed peacock, strutting about in fancy black armor, laughing like a maniac and grinning dumbly at his own offensive jokes. But while I personally loved Pattinson’s portrayal, I can easily understand why critics can’t decide whether they love him or hate him – his performance is so deliberately exaggerated that it feels like it must be saying something, or attempting to: but what? If he’s merely trying to insult the French, then at least he’s made Shakespeare happy.

pajiba.com

(Something that struck me in Pattinson’s first scene in The King, while he was busy talking about how he wanted to drain Henry’s body of its blood and bury it under a tiny French tree, was how happy I am that he will be soon be the DCEU’s new Batman: immediately after thinking that, Pattinson turned his head in such a way that it almost appeared that he had elf-ears for a fleeting moment – and that, coupled with his long blond wig, impressive eyebrows and sinuous physicality, made me gasp, pause the movie and go on Twitter to express my regret that Pattinson had not been cast as Sauron in Amazon Prime’s upcoming Lord Of The Rings prequel series. I’m sorry I have to bring everything back to LOTR, but this is something that I cannot now unsee and cannot ever forgive Pattinson or Amazon Prime for: just think of the beautiful young Sauron that might have been, gifted with Pattinson’s charismatic craziness! It would have been perfect).

The supporting cast is okay, though the only other standout is Ben Mendelsohn as the aging King Henry IV. Joel Edgerton’s Falstaff is made out to be the film’s Everyman archetype, but the character is boring and lifeless (and Edgerton’s performance is so tired that it’s hard to tell whether his yawns are in-character or not). Then there’s the Archbishop of Canterbury (Andrew Havill), who I feel deserves a dishonorable mention simply because of how insufferably annoying he managed to be in the five minutes of screen time he possessed. As for female characters – there are a grand total of three. Lily Rose-Depp is merely okay in the role of Catherine of Valois, who only appears in the film’s last twenty minutes and has one scene of importance; her performance is most notable for the fact that Catherine claims at the outset that she can’t speak English and then proceeds to do so anyway for the rest of the scene.

The film suffers greatly from its muted color palette, and cinematography that is, for the most part, drab and uninspiring. The sole exception is the scene in which Henry V’s forces besiege the castle of Harfleur, using massive trebuchets to launch flaming missiles over the fortress walls: who doesn’t love a good trebuchet? They’re far more interesting than catapults, in my honest opinion. And filming them in action also allows for plenty of interesting camera-work, as The King proves beyond a doubt. Beyond that, the film has nothing going for it in terms of visual splendor – there just isn’t any. The splash of somber green we get from the field of Agincourt is a brief respite from the damp grays and browns of Merry Old England – but even that is quickly transformed into a melee of upturned mud, and the filth of violence.

For history buffs (myself included) the legendary battle of Agincourt is what will keep you watching until the end of the movie: and it’s teased in a big fashion, with a single line of dialogue delivered by Pattinson’s Dauphin in one of the most hilariously exaggerated French accents you’ll hear outside of a Loony Tunes sketch, guaranteed to make your skin crawl in anticipation of the inevitable – “Let us make famous that field out there, this little village of Agincourt that will forever mark the sight of your callow disgrace.” I’m glad I watched The King for that line alone – and thankfully the ensuing battle delivers exactly what the film needs: it’s brutally epic, chaotic, and realistic. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drown in mud, then The King is the film for you!

An additional incentive to watch the movie (beyond mud-drownings) is the score by Nicholas Britell, which is stirring and appropriately ominous.

All in all, did I have fun watching The King? No, not exactly. I don’t think it tells the story of Henry V better than any history book can – certainly not better than Shakespeare (and I don’t typically praise Shakespeare). But I do think it’s worth a watch if you’re a fan of either Chalamet or Pattinson, or want to check out a “highbrow” sampling of their work. Just don’t expect too much from the movie itself – it may be called The King, but its crown belongs firmly to its stars.

Movie Rating: 6.9/10

Marvel On Disney+ – Updates, Rumors And Theories!

Disney+ is speeding towards its launch date on the 12th of this month, and people are already eager to finally have the streaming service and its boatload of content, both old and original, at their fingertips. But those of us who are Marvel fans, and have thus already watched all of the Marvel films that will be on Disney+ about ten times over, are looking much further ahead to when we will finally have original Marvel content to stream on the platform. There are eight Disney+ exclusive miniseries in the works, but all of them are still a long way off. So here I am to tide you over, while you wait, with all the latest updates on Marvel’s venture into the world of streaming.

variety.com

The Falcon And The Winter Soldier: first up is the series which will follow Sam Wilson (“The Falcon”) and Bucky Barnes (“The Winter Soldier”) as they fight evil in the name of the late great Captain America. Rumors suggest that the duo will face off against one of Marvel’s most controversial villains – US Agent John Walker, a Southern conservative who receives the title of Captain America from the US Government after the powers that be decide that Falcon, a black man, isn’t fit to carry the Captain’s shield and legacy. Created in the Reagan era as a warning against hyper-patriotism, Walker is an interesting character to explore, especially given the current political climate. Baron Zemo, first seen in Captain America: Civil War, will also serve as an antagonist in the show, and one of the central plot elements is rumored to be a killer virus that Falcon and Winter Soldier will have to stop from spreading across the United States – it’s unclear what the virus will be, but the Russo Brothers originally planned to use a similar storyline for Civil War, in which Captain America would have to stop the spread of the Madbomb virus, which turns people into mindless, bloodthirsty berserkers: Madbomb could be brought back for The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, and would make for a pretty compelling story. Thankfully, we only have to wait until next Autumn to find out how the two superheroes will deal with that onslaught of dangerous threats: the show is currently filming in Atlanta, Georgia.

WandaVision: a direct tie-in to Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness, which will release in the summer of 2021, WandaVision will explore the life of Wanda Maximoff after the events of Avengers: Endgame, as she descends into insanity and constructs an elaborate alternate reality for herself and a resurrected version of her dead lover, the Vision. A new rumor suggests that when Vision is brought back to life in the series, he will appear as the White Vision, an alternate version of the character that became very popular in the 1980’s – basically just Vision, but without any human emotions or memories of his past life. The series is also apparently looking to cast two babies, which strongly implies that Wanda Maximoff’s twin children from the comics, the heroes Wiccan and Speed, will make their MCU debuts in this show. WandaVision will probably begin filming fairly soon. Randall Park and Kat Dennings will reprise their roles as comedic relief characters Jimmy Woo and Darcy, respectively, while Teyonah Parris joins the series as Monica Rambeau, whom we last saw as a child in Captain Marvel.

Hawkeye: an upcoming Marvel project that has generated some controversy already is the Hawkeye miniseries which will focus on the current Hawkeye, Clint Barton, and the future one, Kate Bishop. Jeremy Renner, who plays Barton in the MCU, has been the target of a whole bunch of allegations from his ex-wife recently, accusing him of physical and emotional abuse. There’s still no official word on whether or not Renner will remain as the star of the series, though reliable sources have hinted that Disney has considered recasting the actor if the allegations are true. According to Marvel executive Trinh Tran, one major element for the series will be explaining Barton’s origins: presumably his time as a circus performer, and then as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. – maybe even another tantalizing reference to the infamous Budapest incident. The series doesn’t have a production start date, but will release in Autumn of 2021. Hawkeye is just a boring character in general, though (at least, in my opinion), so no one is really too upset that we have to wait a little longer for this series. Just sayin’.

Ms. Marvel: speaking of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a prominent member of the S.H.I.E.L.D. team could be joining the MCU through the Ms. Marvel series. The show, which will start production in April of next year, has just hired Krista Husar, the casting director from the ABC TV series Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D, leading to speculation that Ms. Marvel might be looking to cast actress Chloe Bennet, who plays Inhuman heroine Daisy Johnson on S.H.I.E.L.D., in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: it could be a stretch, but it would make sense story-wise, since Ms. Marvel is already rumored to include multiple Inhuman characters, including the Royal Family of Attilan, and, of course, Ms. Marvel herself. Marvel is currently looking for an actress to play the shape-shifting teenager, and is now casting her entire family, including her parents Yusuf and Muneeba, and her brother Amir. A villain is also reportedly being cast for the series – and here’s where I want to take a moment to just admire the fact that, if the rumors are reliable, then Disney+’s roster of characters will be weirder than anything we’ve seen from the MCU before: because apparently the villain that Marvel is looking to cast is none other than (bear with me here) The Inventor – a clone of legendary genius Thomas Edison who, due to an accident with his DNA, ends up becoming an anthropomorphic bird-man hybrid who operates out of Bayonne, New Jersey. Between that and Ms. Marvel herself being a walking rubber-band, this series is shaping up to be…interesting, to say the least. Even Ms. Marvel’s original creator, G. Willow Wilson, is afraid the lead character will lookreally creepy” in the live-action format.

Moon Knight: finally, the Moon Knight series is also getting off to a good start, with casting underway for a Jewish actor to portray troubled antihero Marc Spector, the former CIA mercenary who becomes the unwitting servant of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu (these premises are crazy!). And a recent rumor indicates that Marvel is looking to adapt another absolutely bonkers villain for the small-screen story: Stained Glass Scarlet, the psychic, crossbow-wielding ninja nun/vigilante/former prison guard who kills her own son after he turns to a life of crime, and forms a telepathic bond with Spector through his dreams, is apparently destined for a place in the series as a lead antagonist. In the comics, she has something close to a redemption arc, in which Spector learns to pity her, and eventually allows her to escape from the police. How much of that will be transferred over to live-action is still unclear.

At this point I can only imagine what the casting calls will be like for series’ such as She-Hulk or Loki. It looks like Disney+ will be home to some of the wackiest heroes and villains from the Marvel Comics, and I hope to hear of more in the near future: from the reality-bending antics of WandaVision to the polymorphous weirdness of Ms. Marvel, it looks like there’s plenty of room for more insanely unique storylines on the small screen.

So what do you think? Share your own thoughts and theories in the comments below!